Tuesday, 19 June 2012

summer is in

summer is in
everyone sing
aah! let us begin . . .*

It seems that for a day or two we are able to enjoy some warm seasonal weather down here on the east coast.  It's about time.  The weather has been awful. During half term week I was marking - the annual festival of AS Film Studies exam marking that takes up several weeks of my time.  As the weather was so bad this year I just got on with it and didn't feel that I should be out and about in it.  Or worse still, off on holiday somewhere.  It has been ridiculously cold so far in this neck of the woods.  The poppies pictured are in a field on the road that became infamous a few years ago where several prostitutes were found murdered by the "Suffolk Ripper" or whatever naff name they gave him.  Beauty and calm have returned to a lovely stretch of countryside by the A14.

Still, back to the matter at hand, I did manage to visit friends in my old home town.  We walked in what is now called "Forster Country".  Forster wrote Howards End about a house that is nearby to my old parish church, St Nicholas in Stevenage. The house is actually called Rooks Nest and a friend of mine from schooldays used to be the gardener there. He's a taxi driver now.

We walked up through the churchyard where many of us have seen ghosts - for another time perhaps.  It's quite overgrown in places.  An area of importance for some rare species of plant my friend informed me. The solitude of church graveyards is a wonderful thing in daylight.  The amount of wildlife that lives in them is phenomenal - I hoped to see a jay as there are so many oak trees there. No jays, but we stumbled onto this small mark of Forster's importance to the area.  As you walk past this into the field behind I had a rush of what? Nostalgia? No, but a memory of those long cross country runs we had to undertake from school.  Our school was just down the avenue from the church.

In those days we had to do a real cross country run.  In these days of risk assessments and a paedophile in every hedgerow (nature deficit disorder!!) kids just have to run around the school field a few times.  That's in those schools that haven't sold off their school fields.  Still, hardly a "cross country" run, is it? Running around the school field was a punishment that the science teacher used to excel in when I were a lad. In those days come rain, mud, snow, hail, whatever - rarely sunshine, though - we had to run through the avenue, churchyard, fields. Sunshine was only for those long hot summers we had in those days. After the run, covered in caked mud and feet clogged with chalk, we were forced to go into the communal shower. It was always a bit disconcerting that the P.E. teacher was in there with you, but hey! it was a boy's school.:
"Pass the soap, lad."
"Yes sir." Thing is, he never went on the run with us.

With several skylarks twittering away high over the fields and my friend's dog startling the partridges, it was a great feeling to walk through the years and dredge up some memories.  On the way home a jay flew out of a tree and plonked itself onto the side of the A14.  I knew I was going to see one that day.

Thinking back to the walk through the churchyard and how it is becoming as immaculately unkempt as Francis Rossi's hairdo, there seems to be a synchronicity at large here.  I have become fascinated by the way the the real world - that's nature you know, weeds and foxes and stuff - has begun to encroach into our world more and more.  The urban world if left alone will always be colonised: weeds, after all, were the first things to grow on the bombsites after WW2. So, "only connect" indeed. I get interested in this stuff just as the BBC decides to show a programme about the unnatural wildlife of London. I missed it, of course, but thanks to iPlayer I can sit and watch it in bed with a cup of tea later tonight.  I missed it because I went to see Prometheus last night: a film that concerns itself very much about the nature of life itself. I'll leave it to others to judge its shortcomings but it's an interesting film.  Eric Von Daniken where are you now?

So reading about small wildernesses and the way the natural world finds a way of constantly surviving seems to be cropping up (no pun intended) all over the place.  Here we have a little jungle - a whole ecosystem - sitting happily outside a house with a usually immaculate garden at the end of my road. I find this sort of patch far more interesting - actually, far more beautiful - than an unnatural garden.  I like the poppies and nettles colonising anywhere and everywhere. More on this another time.

When the sun comes out and we start to feel a bit better about ourselves, I enjoy cooking more and more.  Winter's fine with its stews and heavy meals but the summer starts me thinking about more interesting things to do.  Last Sunday I smoked some mackerel. I had hell of a job getting the Rizlas around it but to be absolutely honest, I am very impressed with the results.  We ate it last night and there were no side effects, just the genuine taste of lightly smoked mackerel.  Mind you, the house stinks but what the hey? Next time I'm going up to the local fishmongers and get some really fresh fish off the boat, maybe some prawns too. Home smoked fish, eh? Whatever next?

* Summer Is In by Anne Briggs - recorded in the early 1970s just down the road from here in Little Bealings with Steve Ashley and his short-lived band Ragged Robin.


Andy Wright said...

Good evening Dave. You have a wonderful style of writing which makes a somewhat distant friend feel he is often with you on your various 'adventures' and outings.

By the way and as I am sure you will recall,it was not always just the P.E.teacher that seemed to be ever present in the shower block or the changing rooms. I remember a certain Chairman of the Govenors who ALWAYS found time to visit the school (changing rooms) on a Wednesday afternoon. Funny that.......

Anonymous said...

You grammar school oiks could never be expected to understand the purity of the urge, inspired by the study of the classics, to admire the clean lines of the male form.

Think yourselves lucky, and ennobled, to have been the objects of a cultivated gaze. Nothing shameful or grubby going on there. Oooh, no! Ahem.

A.E. "Alfie" Housman

(Eddie Thomas told me about your blog -- promising work, but spelling, lad, spelling!)

Dave Leeke said...

Hello Andy, thank you. I believe you are referring to The Penguin. That's what we called him if I remember correctly. I wonder if that was just us (or me?) or if older students called him that? Perhaps one of my older readers would like to comment. I've been meaning to post about the way nicknames seem to have disappeared - perhaps I will later this week.

I sometimes think I spent those five years in total oblivion to much of what was going on around me. People tell me of things that were going on and I didn't seem aware of it at all.

Mr Housman, sir. Thank you for joining us. I think some of the older boys understood that sort of thing. I really am an oik - I got in to grammar school by dint of the fact that the 11 plus was rigged so I probably shouldn't have gone there at all.

The male gaze is an interesting concept much used in film studies.

I wondered about the spelling comment - I assume it's the use of apostrophes where they shouldn't be. Thanks for that, I'll try and edit them out. Any other speeling mistaks should be reported immediately!

Send Eddie my love - I see Robert Macfarlane has used him as his spiritual guide in his new book, "The Old Ways". So do you guys sit up there in heaven reciting poems? Or just generally chat about how Britain seems to be going to hell in a handcart?

Mike C. said...


Funny, I don't recall any of this stuff in the showers (other than everyone falling about giggling at the preposterous size [XXL] of one classmate's tackle). I do recall cross-country running, though, and how one's heart sank if Biggerstaff was wearing a tracksuit that day. Those fields by St. Nick's must be full of lost plimsolls. Argh!

What are all these poets doing in here? Dead Poets Society, or what?


Dave Leeke said...

It was great to walk those fields and through the churchyard again. I remember I was always quite slow - I hated running - but often used to pass the wheezing smokers some who had stopped for a fag!

So, Mike, did I make the nickname "Penguin" up? Or did you big boys call him that too?

As for the poets, I'm not sure but I'm expecting that John Clare along soon.

Mike C. said...

I don't think I ever consciously noticed any Chair of Governors in my entire school career, or do you mean Burridge, Dave? If so, we wittily called him "Burridge", though some Jennings/Molesworth-reading types did try to badge him as "Black Bart", I recall.

Actually, racking my brains, I do remember talk of someone called "Powell Davis" (?) who apparently (and mystifyingly) left sixpences on loo seats as an honesty test for visitors, but I'm pretty sure our paths never crossed (certainly not in the showers...).

Kind of you to call me a Big Boy, but I confess I'm not the XXL ...


Anonymous said...

Love conveyed, dear boy.

Ted Forster, too, would have liked to drop by those showers, so near but so far, but was too terribly shy.

Did you ever encounter the dreadful Poston woman? Why Ted let her have that delightful house I can't imagine.

Spelling: defecit=deficit (your version is far too reminiscent of "defecation", my dear boy!). Admirable revision of the punctuation. However, that fraud von Daniken is, sensu stricto, Erich von Däniken.

But, as you say, what the hey? As I once wrote, "The sum of things to be known is inexhaustible, and however long we read, we shall never come to the end of our story-book".


Alfie H.

Dave Leeke said...


That's the fella - Powell-Davis. I seem to remember him resembling Burgess Meredith as The Penguin. I'm sure he wore pin stripes and carried an umbrella. However, that probably WAS the Penguin and I have just a jumbled memory of my childhood. Perhaps either Andy or Martyn can elucidate further.


Ouch! I missed that one. There certainly is a lacking - I said I was an oik. I must admit that I find it quite hard checking spelling on computers. I used to be pretty good at spelling but twenty years of marking badly spelt work has had its impact. I must also get into the habit of checking names especially these foreign ones. That means I'm going to have to start using the "insert symbol" option.

Must try harder.

Andy Wright said...

Indeed it was Geoffry Powell-Davies JP.(Burgess Meredith based his portrayal of the Penguin on PD) I recall an essay compettion he set. First prize for the lucky boy was Tea at Little Wymondley, Second prize was Lunch AND Tea at Little Wymondley and Third prize was Lunch, Tea and Breakfast at Little Wymondley!
Fortunately,I was nowhere near good enough or pretty enough to come first,second or third........

Dave Leeke said...

Oh good one, Andy. I now officially owe you a pint. Unfortunately Patrick has finally ( at the third attempt) retired from the Half Moon- and the Adnams is certainly not as good there. I hope The Jester is still okay? Yours or mine? (soon).

I don't think I ever qualified for crumbs off of such people's tables. Over to you Alfie - who liked us rough boys?

Mike C. said...


I can't help but feel there was an entire dimension to that school that I failed to see -- too innocent, too ugly, too oikey...

Housman can speak for himself, wherever/whoever he is, but "A Shropshire Lad" is ALL about the desire and (failed) pursuit of rough boys.


Dave Leeke said...

Perhaps he should have lived in Herfordshire - there seems to have been plenty of desire and successful pursuit of rough Stevenage boys! I don't know the poem(s) well but there's a lot of death in there.

I believe the connection here is that it's mentioned in Forster's "A Room With A View".

Only connect, eh?

Dave Leeke said...

That certainly said "Hertfordshire" before I published the comment.

Mike C. said...


Never really understood that "only connect" thing, in the context of Forster... Damned if I'm writing an essay on Howard's End, though.

Here's a set of connections to ponder, though:

Housman - Forster - Poston - Michael Easton - Burridge - Powell Davis.


Dave Leeke said...

I'll be buggered if I can work that one out!

Andy Wright said...

Hi Dave. Sorry to hear that Patrick has retired , he certainly kept a great pint of Adnams although he was a little naughty charging West End prices for it! The Jester appears to be on a bit of an upward spiral and the beer is always good. Haven't eaten there for a while though. Let's sort out something soon......always very happy to travel to your part of the world but we can discuss the location for our long overdue rendez -vous .

Dave Leeke said...

Hi Andy,

There aren't many decent - if any, really - around here at the moment.

To be honest, I visited the Dog and Duck in Bateman Street, Soho, three times in May and their London Pride was a fair bit cheaper than Patrick's Adnams! Adnams get a bit of bad press around here for their prices generally. Still, old Patrick certainly knew how to keep a good pint.

The Fat Cat or Dove are the only pubs in Ipswich to go to. Anyway, "talk" soon to arrange something.